Introducing himself as Bruce Forsythe, Jon Bon Jovi takes to the stage at London’s historic Palladium for a two-hour “listening party” to celebrate release of the band’s new album, This House Is Not For Sale. With a seven-member line-up and a lot of talking, there’s much to take in…
1. This is less a listening party, more a lecture
Jon Bon Jovi explains the origins of all of the songs in depth, in a way songwriters rarely do for their audiences. He reads lyrics out, he explains how he wrote them, and he does so in a way that shows precisely how much these new new songs mean to him. It’s heartfelt, and believable, and when he stops All Hail The King because he’s choking up thinking about what it all means, you know you’re in the midst of something special. A run-of-the-mill show this is not.
2. On the downside, lectures are much less fun than parties
If you sell somewhere north of 100 million albums and fill stadiums all over the world, it’s likely you’ve learned a thing or two about stagecraft, and about pacing, and about choosing the right setlist. So when you play a set that doggedly follows the tracklisting of an album no-one’s heard, and fill the gaps between songs with tales of their origin, don’t expect the momentum to last, because it doesn’t. It sags. And what could be a night of unrestrained celebration turns into a constant search for defibrillators.
3. This House Is Not For Sale has a great chorus
A giant chorus. A massive chorus. A wave-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-think-choruses-get-get-any-bigger-than-this chorus. It’s vast. Canyon shaped. Ocean sized. And glorious.
4. The other songs don’t
Apart from the one that sounds a lot like This House Is Not For Sale. It’s called God Bless This Mess.
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5. Richie Sambora doesn’t get a mention
But he’s a ghostly presence throughout. There’s lots of talk about the “four walls” that built “this house”, and Bon Jovi talks about the pride he has in the original line-up remaining together for so long. Later, he calls excellent new guitarist Phil X his brother and hugs him onstage, and you wonder whose benefit this show of affection is for. Is it a middle finger to Richie? Or is he merely reassuring Phil that the job is his for the foreseeable future? Given that he’s already done over 100 shows with the band, we’re probably reading too much into this either way. Although judging by the show-stopping bum notes on Come On Up To Our House, it’s possible he won’t last the week.
6. Bon Jovi are still a force to be reckoned with
Despite Bon Jovi’s obvious pride in his new songs, and the audience’s apparent willingness to come along for the ride, the final one-two punch of Who Says You Can’t Go Home and Bad Medicine suggests that it’s those big hits that’ll keep the crowds coming back for more. And as the set climaxes and Bon Jovi grins and spins, and the audience throw their arms towards the heavens and sing lustily along, you imagine that deep down Jon Bon Jovi probably realises this too.
All pics: Kevin Nixon